Lila (1968)

LILA (1968)
aka Mantis in Lace
Article 3811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-10-2012
Posting Date: 1-20-2012
Directed by William Rotsler
Featuring Susan Stewart, Steve Vincent, James Brand
Country: USA
What it is: Exploitation movie disguised as psycho killer movie

A topless dancer starts taking acid and has bad trips, during which she kills and dismembers her lovers. Police investigate.

I could say the plot is threadbare, but that would be missing the point; to make the plot more elaborate would have cut in on the extensive footage of topless dancers that fills up most of the running time of the movie. I saw it coming when I saw Harry Novak’s name during the opening credits. Our psycho kills with screwdrivers and a cleaver, usually yelling things like “keep away” while she’s having a bad trip. She’s not the sharpest pin in the sewing basket, but neither are the cops that are on her case. Those who love exploitation and lots of skin will like this one best; those who enjoy snatches of hilarious dialogue will also find a use for it. Other than that, the best thing I can say about this is that it has a modicum of wit. And remember – When you’re tripping on acid, you have to say “Oh, wow!” a lot. As far as I know, the title song was not a hit, neither in the short version or the extended album version that gets a lot airplay during the movie.

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Love Me Deadly (1973)

LOVE ME DEADLY (1973)
Article 3797 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2011
Posting Date: 1-6-2012
Directed by Jacques Lacerte
Featuring Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Lyle Waggoner, Christopher Stone
Country: USA
What it is: A love story, I guess

Because of her infatuation with her dead father, a woman can only have intimacy with the dead. In order to break her habit, she marries a man who resembles her father. But she continues her other life with a coven at a local mortuary. Can this ever work out?

From the moment the main character plants a passionate kiss on a corpse in the pre-credits sequence of this movie, you know it’s not fooling around, and if you’re looking for a movie to add to the list of the sickest movies ever made, here’s one that qualifies. And it does get pretty sick at times, and not always in the expected ways. What really comes across as jarring, given the subject matter of this movie, is the wealth of romantic musical montage in the movie. I’ve seen this happen to many movies from the early seventies, but I can’t think of a movie where it’s more out of place. Needless to say, this one isn’t for the faint of heart, and the easily offended (and maybe even those not so easily offended) will want to stay away. If the tastelessness isn’t reason enough, the worst problem with the movie is that once you see the whole premise set up, you know there’s only one way the movie is going to end, and you’ll see it coming long before it does. It is what it is. But at least someone has a happy ending.

Lorna… the Exorcist (1974)

LORNA… THE EXORCIST (1974)
aka Les possedees du diable
Article 3796 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2011
Posting Date: 1-5-2012
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Pamela Stanford, Guy Delorme, Lina Romay
Country: France
What it is: Witch story, Franco style

A businessman’s career is made prosperous by a witch who demands that the man’s to-be-born daughter is given to her when she turns eighteen. Nineteen years later, the man has become reluctant to give up his daughter. What price will he pay?

Forget any reference to exorcists or exorcisms in the movie’s title; there’s none of that here; I suspect someone took the fact that the French title roughly translates as “possession of the devil” and figured that attaching the word “exorcist” to it was appropriate. And, given that the director was Jesus Franco, I would suspect that the movie would be more likely to be an exploration of Franco’s usual obsessions rather than any imitation of THE EXORCIST. Still, this is a surprisingly focused movie from Franco; it actually seems to have a plot, for one thing. Still, with Franco, the plot is bare bones enough so that he can fill things out with his obsessions, which, on top of the usual set of them, also seems to take in modern architecture and eye makeup here. It does get rather outrageous at times, especially in the sequences involving the wife’s death and the one in which Lorna seduces the daughter. Still, I think you really have to share Franco’s obsessions to be fully entertained by this; for one thing, I get bored of watching a naked woman thrash around on a bed a lot sooner than Franco does, and I find a lot of the reactions are so far over the top that they become silly. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one is a favorite among Francophiles.

The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)

THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN (1975)
TV-Movie
Article 3791 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2011
Posting Date: 12-31-2011
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Featuring Elizabeth Montgomery, Fionnula Flanagan, Ed Flanders
Country: USA
What it is: True crime speculation

In the late nineteenth century, the daughter of a well-to-do family finds herself accused of the axe murders of her mother and father. Will she be convicted of the crime? And is she, in fact, guilty?

I’m not intimately familiar with the details of the Lizzie Borden case, but I’m assuming at this point that this movie is more or less accurate on the details that are a part of public record, but that the revelations as to what actually happened are speculation on the part of the screenwriter. One of the problems I often have with TV-Movies is that the nature of the medium often requires the ‘blanding out’ of certain plot elements, but there’s a flip side to this; it could also require that the creative teams on these movies to use subtlety and suggestion to get their points across, and this can sometimes result in a richer experience. It’s the second approach that is taken here, and the movie is very effective in telling its story of gruesome murders and the queasy dysfunction of a family that led to them. It’s all augmented by a strong performance by Elizabeth Montgomery; her Lizzie Borden is not mentally stable, but she’s also not a fool, and there’s a frightening coldness to her that makes you believe that she could indeed be guilty. The performance by Fritz Weaver as her father (in flashbacks) is also very good. Whether or not the speculation is true, the movie does an effective job of selling it, and the movie is highly engaging.

Lokis (1970)

LOKIS (1970)
aka The Bear
Article 3750 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2011
Posting Date: 11-20-2011
Directed by Janusz Majewski
Featuring Jozef Duriasz, Edmund Fetting, Gustaw Lutkiewicz
Country: Poland
What it is: Shapeshifter saga

A pastor studying Lithuanian customs stays with a nobleman in order to use the rare books in his library. He learns that the nobleman’s mother is insane, and that legend has it she became that way after she was assaulted by a bear, and that her son was the result of that union, making him a werebear. Is it just a legend….?

If I were to give a thumbnail description of this movie, I’d describe it as something of a cross between a movie of Val Lewton’s and one of Corman’s Poe movies in which a young stranger visits a manor whose lord is Vincent Price. I could certainly see Price in the role of the nobleman here, and like those movies, the story is told from the point of view of the visiting stranger. And like the Lewton movie, there is a certain ambiguity about just what the truth is. I found the movie intriguing and atmospheric, but it is overlong and slow-moving. Still, there are memorable moments here; I particularly like an encounter with a witch-like character in a swamp, which eventually leads to an intriguing moment later in the movie when the nobleman, to celebrate his marriage, releases some of the animals he has in captivity. I really enjoyed this one, and will probably be watching it again at some time.

Leonor (1975)

LEONOR (1975)
Article 3741 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2011
Posting Date: 11-11-2011
Directed by Juan Luis Bunuel
Featuring Michel Piccoli, Liv Ullmann, Ornella Muti
Country: Spain / France / Italy
What it is: Vampire tragedy

When his first wife dies by misadventure, a distraught fourteenth-century nobleman tries unsuccessfully to cope with his loss, even remarrying in the hope that this will help him to forget. He meets a stranger who has the ability of reviving his dead wife, and he gives in to the temptation. The wife returns, but she brings vampirism and the plague in her wake…

Apparently, this horror / art film directed by Luis Bunuel’s son was poorly received in its time, and reportedly even received the dreaded “Bomb” rating in the Maltin guide; I don’t have my copy of the guide handy to double-check. The fact that it sits with a 5.1 rating on IMDB also implies that the movie isn’t particularly well-regarded today. Me, I found myself rather taken with it. Yes, it is rather slow-moving in terms of its horror content, but I see it as more of a drama about the nobleman than a horror movie per se; in fact, it seems to fit the classic definition of a tragedy, wherein a man of high rank is eventually brought to ruin by a tragic flaw, in this case the flaw being the nobleman’s inability to deal with his grief. The first half of the movie deals with the nobleman and his attempt to come to terms with his loss, and we see his resolve to move on gradually deteriorate even to the point where he moves into the crypt with his dead wife. The character who can bring her back to life doesn’t appear until half the movie is over, and it’s only then that the horror content comes into play.

There’s some controversy as to whether the revived dead wife is strictly a vampire or not; some of the user comments on IMDB imply that she merely strangles her victims. I agree she’s not a vampire in the classic sense, but there is something inhuman going on here; the bodies of the children are never found, but actually seem to vanish altogether, and for this reason I don’t mind using the word “vampire” as something of an approximation. I think it’s interesting that she eschews the touch of her husband until she begins murdering children, which seems to revive her sex drive. Many horror fans will be disappointed by the lack of blood and the slow beginning, but those who like interesting characterizations woven in with their movies will find much to like here. I think this one is rather underrated, and deserves a reassessment.

The Love Butcher (1975)

THE LOVE BUTCHER (1975)
Article 3720 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2011
Posting Date: 10-21-2011
Directed by Donald M. Jones and George Theakos
Featuring Erik Stern, Kay Neer, Jeremiah Beecher
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer movie

An ugly and crippled gardener has an alternate personality; he’s also a handsome ladies’ man who seduces and then kills his victims, usually women that have insulted his other personality. Will the police be able to catch him?

Between the sleazy title, the unpromising-sounding premise, and the fact that, according to one of my guides, it sat on the shelf for seven years before finally getting released in 1982 during the slasher era, I was expecting something pretty awful, and for about the first twenty minutes or so, I didn’t see anything that contradicted that expectation. It wasn’t until about the halfway mark, when the studly alter ego kills a victim he failed to seduce and then begins conjuring up an alternate reality in which he succeeded in his seduction, that I began to really take interest, as it begins tapping in to an unexpected complexity in the interplay between the two personalities. In some ways, it ends up being a very interesting variant of PSYCHO, one in which the explanation of the psychosis actually adds texture to the story rather than coming across as something thrown in at the last moment. Oh, it’s still pretty sleazy, and some of the killings are cruel and nasty, but that’s to be expected; what isn’t expected is some of the interesting story turns it all takes before it’s done. I ended up finding this one a lot more worthwhile than I expected it would be.